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Oklahoma Supreme Court orders removal of Ten Commandments monument

Reuters logo Reuters 6/30/2015 Heide Brandes
The Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. © Sue Ogrocki/AP Photo The Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that a Ten Commandments monument placed on State Capitol grounds must be removed because the Oklahoma Constitution bans the use of state property for the benefit of a religion.

The 6-foot-tall (1.8-meter) stone monument, paid for with private money and supported by lawmakers in the socially conservative state, was installed in 2012, prompting complaints that it violated the U.S. Constitution's provisions against government establishment of religion, as well as local laws.

In a 7-2 decision, the court said the placement of the monument violated a section in the state's constitution, which says no public money or property can be used either directly or indirectly for the "benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion."

The court in its decision said: "As concerns the 'historic purpose' justification, the Ten Commandments are obviously religious in nature and are an integral part of the Jewish and Christian faiths."

Lawmakers have argued that the monument was not serving a religious purpose but was meant to mark a historical event.

That opened the door for other groups, including Satanists and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, to apply for permission to erect their own monuments on Capitol grounds to mark what they say are historical events.

Governor Mary Fallin, a Republican who supported the monument's placement, was disappointed with the decision and will consult with the attorney general to look at legal options, her office said.

In March, a U.S. judge dismissed a case filed by an atheist group that was seeking to remove the monument from State Capitol grounds, saying the plaintiffs failed to show standing to bring the suit. (Reporting by Heide Brandes; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Trott and Eric Beech)

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